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Why we need the Living Rent Campaign

11061994_1607183429533288_81335487503538362_nIn October 2014, The Living Rent Campaign was founded in response to a Scottish Government Consultation on a new tenancy type for the Private Rented Sector (PRS) in Scotland.

Put simply, we’re demanding the type of change private tenants in Scotland, and across the UK, have needed for too long now. Security of tenure – protection from unjust ‘no fault’ evictions – and the re-introduction of the rent controls Thatchers’ Government scrapped so long ago.

100 years ago in 1915, Mary Barbour found herself in a similar situation to that so many of us do today. Rents were rising, quality was falling and tenants were being forced into absolute deprivation by slum landlords and a state that didn’t care. But Mary Barbour knew she could change it, and she knew the way to get them to listen and to change was through their pockets. She started a rent strike.

Tens of thousands joined her, and following mass demonstrations and rent strikes. spreading outwith the cities. Led by women private tenants they won within the year. Rent controls were introduced, capped to pre-war levels, and slum landlords were driven out.

Since those controls were scrapped in 1988, we have found ourselves in a housing crisis across the UK. With the PRS growing massively due to increasing house prices, wages stagnating and the death of social housing, many people are forced into the market with nowhere else to go.

But that market has failed, demand outstrips supply and people are forced to pay ever more for a necessity like a roof over their head. In towns and cities they can’t find cheap accommodation, it doesn’t exist.

Of course this disproportionately affects those the labour movement was founded to help the most – the working class. With the most marginalised in our society being the most likely to rent, people are the most likely to find themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords if they are non-british, non-white immigrants with no support.

So we need to take back control. We need to seize the argument and remind ourselves that a house is a home. It isn’t a luxury. It isn’t another way for us to be exploited by capitalism.

We could win this fight in Scotland, and we’re lucky to be facing a much more progressive Government than the rest of the UK. But I want the argument to be won everywhere. So the Labour Party has to shift its focus, and we need to make. That process starts by you, their members, putting it onto the agenda.

However we shouldn’t assume that these things are won inside political parties, and we should recognise that some of the biggest change a society can, and has throughout history made, is through grass roots campaigns set up in our communities.

The Living Rent Campaign was never intended to be party political, and we have activists from right across the spectrum who recognise that where we might disagree on one thing, we can achieve so much together on others.

The Living Rent Campaign will be out on the streets as much as possible, speaking to the public and getting signatures on our petition to show the public support us.

If you live in Scotland, or will be visiting anytime soon, get in touch with @alasdair_clark on Twitter if you want to join us.

You can also sign our petition online no matter where you live and share it with your friends.

One Comment

  1. Barry Ewart says:

    Absolutely and I have signed the petition.
    I have also argued that with rent controls we will also save billions from the housing benefit bill which we could use imaginately to refurbish the thousands of empty homes around the country to rent or buy.
    And these are already in situ so no new build, saving some environmental space.
    And of course we need more social housing (built to Parker Morris standards) and more affordable homes to buy.
    One of the first things the Tories did when in Coalition with the Lib Dems was to cut taxes on private landlords with multiple properties whilst bringing in the bedroom tax for the poor.
    We also need more security of tenure for private tenants and a statutory right for consultation for all tenants and Jeremy Corbyn’s has called for the Right To Buy for private tenants which could work.
    The RTB for housing assn tenants will only reduce the stock but as someone argued it may also restrict the choice of housing to the tenants, to social housing areas only, and aren’t working class people allowed to dream of a home in the suburbs?
    But as well as rent controls I would like us to look at the mortgage system – I once saw a lovely terrace in a conservation area where you bought 50% and got the rest on a 120 year lease – so you had a lovely home for life if you wanted, so perhaps we need to get back to people wanting lovely homes to actually live in rather than housing as mainly a financial commodity.
    We need to offer a genuine choice of tenure which is affordable, and rent controls and bringing back taxes on private landlords with multiple properties is key.

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